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The Informed Parent

Jump Start Your Child Into The School Year

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Sep. 01, 1998
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As summer comes to a close, many parents look forward to the beginning of school. In some families September means less dependence on day care. In other families parents notice that their children have run out of ideas for creative play and are ready for a time of greater structure. Children may view the beginning of school differently from their parents. Although some children look forward to the event with anticipation and excitement, others feel a sense of hesitation. A few exhibit anxieties about the beginning of school.

Parents understand children who feel excited about school starting. It may be difficult to know how to respond if your child is hesitant or anxious. The following suggestions will assist all children in making the transition from summer into the new school year. For the child who seems less-than-ready for summer to end, these suggestions are of particular value.

An old adage states, "Well begun is half done." This can certainly be said about the beginning of school. The child who begins the school year successfully has a greater opportunity for year-long success than the one who begins with struggles.

Before School Begins

Children feel the most comfortable when they know what to expect. Driving by the school while on regular outings, even if it is not a new school for your student, begins to prepare him or her for going there daily. Commenting on anything new or different raises the child's awareness of changes in the environment. For example you might say, "Wow! Look at the new grass on the field." In your eyes, this may seem trite. For children, it is preparation. They begin to think thoughts like,"I wonder if I'll get to play on that field" or "I remember when the field was just dirt." Their minds begin to make the shift from summer to the school year.

Having a picnic on the school ground is fun and provides an opportunity for children to play on the equipment and explore the outside corridors at their leisure. They can peek in the windows of classrooms being prepared for fall. That encourages conversation about what might happen in their new classroom.

As soon as the school posts your child's room number and teacher, visiting the school becomes particularly useful. More than likely, you won't be able to get into the room; however, seeing it is enough to relieve some anxiety and enhance anticipation. Children may recall friends who had that room and teacher the year before. They begin to tell you stories about the classroom. They are preparing themselves for the coming school year's experience.

If your child is new to a school, arranging to meet the principal or school secretary prior to the first day of class helps children begin to feel at home on their new campus. The school office usually opens in August and office staff and administration are on campus most days. A call ahead will assure that someone can meet with you. When you make the call, simply say that you are assisting your child in learning about his or her new school and you would both like to meet the principal or secretary. More that likely you will receive a warm reception.

After School Begins

After school has been in session for two or three weeks, you may want to make an appointment to visit the classroom teacher. You do not have to have a particular reason. Teachers like to have parents show an interest in the school program. This is a meeting to introduce yourself, see the classroom and ask any questions you may have. If your child has special needs, such as needing to sit near the front of the room, addressing these early in the year sets the stage for school success.

Most schools have Back to School nights in early fall. Making an effort to attend this evening of introduction to the classroom shows children that you are interested in their world. It gives the teacher the message that you are a concerned and interested parent.

Finally, finding some time each day to talk with your child about his or her day is one of the surest ways of showing that you are interested and care. Sometimes we tend to use this as a time of questioning; "What did you do today? Who did you play with? Do you like your new teacher?" When we do this, our children feel interrogated.

A more effective way of learning about our children is to say something like, "Tell me about your day" or "I'd be interested in hearing something you enjoyed about your day." If your child isn't inclined to talk, don't push it. Tomorrow may be better. There is no need for concern unless a child never chooses to talk about school.

Preparing children for a successful school year is not difficult. It does take time. Taking the necessary time to give children a jump start into the year lays the foundation for greater year-long success.




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